Showcasing Local Talent

River Terrace Health Campus
promotes local artists’ talents

Madison Area Arts Alliance completes deal with Trilogy

(March 2016) – The Madison (Ind.) Area Arts Alliance works hard to build good relationships with the business community because it thinks the arts have a vital role in economic development. One of the key goals of the alliance is to promote public art. That belief and lots of hard work have paid off well.
When Trilogy Health Care opened its $15 million River Terrace campus Feb. 18, nearly 50 pieces of art by 18 local artists were on permanent display throughout the facility. Since River Terrace will be Trilogy’s 100th senior care facility, the Open House was a special occasion. Trilogy has spent $10,000 on the local arts’ project.

Photo by Alice Jane Smith

Bruce Merriman poses in his Madison, Ind., shop with some of his zany robot creations, several of which are on display at the newly opened River Terrace Health Campus.

Arts pieces selected for the facility include watercolors, paintings and photographs of local scenes, such as the Ohio River, hills, farms and wildlife. There is also a robot or two made entirely from recycled products or large prints of guitars, firefighters and the Madison Regatta experience.
“This is a great thing and an exciting experience,” says Kim Franklin Nyberg, director of the Arts Alliance. She sees it as an opportunity to showcase local artists, whose works will be shared with River Terrace residents and the community. Trilogy contracted directly with the arts alliance to manage the overall project.
“This is something rarely done in the past,” Nyberg said. The arts alliance served as broker for the project, managed all production and paid the artists working with the design team.” 
One of those 18 artists is Patty Cooper Wells, of Madison. “The River Terrace Health Campus will be an excellent addition to our community,” she said. “I think it is wonderful that they chose local artists’ work to accent the décor. We have such a wide variety of talent to choose from.”
Another artist whose work was purchased is new to the community. Bruce Merriman, 33, has a passion for recycling. “I’ve always recycled,” he said. “I will reuse anything that still has life in order to keep it from going to landfills.”

Photo by Alice Jane Smith

Madison, Ind., artist Patty Cooper Wells poses with her river view painting on display at River Terrace Health Campus.

His work for River Terrace embraces the old and the new, an approach that mirrors Trilogy’s goal with this facility. Trilogy took care to be sensitive to Madison’s preservation history by adaptive reuse of the old King’s Daughters’ Hospital facility in downtown Madison. 
Robots are Merriman’s most popular form of art. Trilogy bought two of them. One robot is made from an old tin of Ming Darjeeling tea. When he added light bulb eyes, a head from an old lawnmower, and arms from a broken drill, the robot came to “life,” so to speak.
The second purchase still throbs with “life.” It is a robot from an old transistor radio. “The radio still works,” Merriman said. “It is an actual radio that one still can play in the house.” Interestingly, its head is from a computer board, but the arms are old spoons. Vintage buttons from the 1930s serve as big orange eyes.
Three years ago, Merriman quit his factory job in order to focus on his art. In May 2015, he opened the “Starving Artist” shop in downtown Madison while juggling life as a new father. “I had zero sleep,” he said, while he helped care for his infant son, Braylon; wrote lesson plans for the art classes he teaches; opened a new business, and commuted from Scottsburg. “It was a little stressful,” he conceded, but his wife, Jessica, has been “really supportive.”
Opening a new store was an adventure for Merriman. Just before the 2015 Madison Chautauqua of the Arts festival, he decided to showcase his robots in the front window of his store. “I was really nervous when I put the robots in the window,” he said. Although a couple seated on benches outside the store looked somewhat askance when they saw the robots going in the window, he persevered.
Later, he said that, “People stopped in every day to tell me which robot was their favorite. I find stuff that nobody uses anymore, and that is the creative challenge.”
Three years ago, the self-described perfectionist quit his job at a factory to focus full-time on art. He teaches art one day a week at a Christian school. Initially, Merriman went to the University of Louisville to be an art teacher. “I took all those classes but didn’t want to be boxed in.” Preferring to think differently, he changed his degree to business.
Cooper Wells was commissioned to do a painting of the Ohio River because the Cooper Wells’ painting the design team liked already had been auctioned for a benefit for Historic Madison Inc. Titled, “Drusilla’s View II,” the new painting is a view from one of the homes of Drusilla Cravens, granddaughter of James F.D. Lanier, the famed Indianapolis financier credited for building the Lanier Mansion. “They wanted a big statement,” she said, so her new painting is 24 by 35 inches. “It has impressionistic colors to it. Purples and blues.” 
Cooper Wells is well known locally for her colorful acrylic paintings and portraits and her public art, such as murals. She likes to write. In the past, she curated a rotating art display at the former restaurant, JoeyG’s Restaurant & Nightclub. It is a job she says she misses somewhat. “I had a lot of fun helping get some new artists going,” she said. In that role, she had encouraged new artists to display their work in the former restaurant and bar on Main Street.
Cooper Wells praises Nyberg for her advocacy of the arts. “She is amazing,” she said. “She always goes the extra mile to help local artists.”
Visual artist Aaron Woods, 28, likes to experiment. It keeps him fresh.
Trilogy bought 10 of his large photographic images. They are exquisitely burned onto aluminum and encased in an acrylic canvas. “They’re huge,” he said. He features Madison’s volunteer firefighters because images of them seldom are seen around here. It’s especially unusual to see images of female firefights, he added. Gender equality is important to him. There are five scenes from Madison Regatta festivities and a patriotic image from Main Street. One of the most striking pictures is a fire hydrant on Walnut Street when the area was flooded last year. There also are detailed photos of musician Chris Jesse and guitarist and singer-songwriter Rusty Bladen.
Woods says he appreciates the fact that River Terrace is decorating its facility with local art rather than “cookie cutter” art. Trilogy is giving back to the community by supporting local artists, he said. His passion goes beyond his own work. He is involved in organizations that strive to promote the film industry in Indiana. They want Indiana to restore tax incentives and other legislative issues that will help the industry thrive statewide.
An “eternal optimist, even at the worst of times,” Woods has been working for as long as he can remember. He grew up in Cooper’s Bottom in Trimble County, Ky., but moved to Madison with his family at age 7. Asked about his favorite art form, he readily said, “Just filming, period. It is a release for me, a stress reliever. It is my first love, my ‘mistress.’ ” He made his first movie when he was about 4 years old and started his own company when he was 16 or 17. “It has evolved in its own way,” he said. “I always try new things. Trial and error, I like that concept.”
Although he formed a business, Dark Phoenix Products, he tries to keep a “hobby mind set” so that he can “open myself to the experience and have fun.” He just designed his first book cover for writer Tamra Palmer, who will give a book reading Feb. 6 at Village Lights Bookstore in Madison. He works on feature films, short films and commercials. Interestingly, he got into photography by chance. His wife, Brooke, suggested it. Woods has a bachelor’s degree from Indiana State University, and he studied video production at Ivy Tech Community College. He works for Madison TV 15, based at the City Hall.
Other artists whose works have been purchased for the facility include Eric Phagan, Kevin Carlson, Harry Elburg, and Debi Black. Prints by Bill Borden, Karen Taylor and the late Bob Saueressig have been purchased. Works by stained glass artist Rhonda Deeg and photographer Theresa Strohl were chosen. There will be wood pieces from Sam Sloffer, Dorral Harrison, Bob Maile and Ed Bladen. Carol Williams, who does shadow box collages, and Karen Wohleb, a gourd artist, complete the list of artists.

The art project developed from the creative roundtables held by the arts alliance, in conjunction with presentations by Nyberg. She worked with Gary Jory, vice president of Trilogy’s new campus development, and Dana Hubbuch Horsman, vice president of Hubbuch & Co. in Louisville, Ky., to develop the River Terrace arts’ project.

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